Urban education was front and center as Seattle hosted the 2009 Hip Hop Congress National Conference, July 29-Aug. 2 in the Central District, in conjunction with Umoja Fest and the NW Urban Hip Hop Fest.
With the goal of promoting "practical 'do it now' solutions" in supporting progress in communities as well as the business sphere, the events attracted attendance from around the nation and the Pacific Northwest, while at the same time drawing young music fans into the parks for fun and art.
On the business end, a major goal of organizers was support and training helping independent artists and entrepreneurs develop their local hip-hop economy.
In terms of community, the event underscored the need for self-sufficiency in the face of school closures and street violence impacting urban neighborhoods -- through "harnessing hip-hop has an effective solution to education and youth development," organizers said.
Workshops and trainings included Digital Distribution, On Line Marketing and Promotion, Hip Hop and Education Programming and Civic Engagement.
The Hip Hop Congress' local community partners included Umojafest P.E.A.C.E. Center, Dope Emporium, Seattle Hip-Hop Youth Council, 206 Zulu, Global Fam, Oseao Music Group, B-Girl Media, the Bassmeant, Mothers Outreach Movement, Reclaim the Media, Urban Teachers Network, Silicon Valley DeBug, Hip Hop Without Borders, 2nd Nature and other local organizations and collectives.
Film screenings included a special feature, "The New Muslim Cool;" "The Beat," with Rahman Jamaal, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2003; and a documentary film by Scott Macklin about hip hop & education in South Africa, "Masizakeh".
Artists who participated included Akil of Jurassic 5; The Jacka of Mob Figaz; Raashan Ahmad of Crown City Rockers; and Toki Wright.
Currently the Hip Hop Congress is nurturing a project called Urban Teachers Network, a non-profit organization representing the merger of artists and students, music and community.
"As a national and international organization dedicated to its mission, Hip Hop Congress has chosen Education as a central initiative promoted by its artists, chapters, partners, and donors," the group said in a statement. "As the educational system continues to fail American students (particularly low-income and students of color), alternative curriculum and solutions are needed to address the current education crisis."
The Congress is building an Urban Teacher Network, "where educators of youth in urban communities can form networks to share ideas, curriculum, and build after-school extracurricular and mentor programs for the youth they teach.
"The UTN is also designed to be a space where teachers facing the daily challenges of their field can find comfort in the company and support of colleagues with similar experiences."
Sign up to support the effort at http://www.hiphopcongress.com/.